Class Action Lawsuits

Uptown People's Law Center has seven class action lawsuits filed against the Illinois Department of Corrections. These lawsuits will ultimately change the prison system in Illinois for the better. To learn more about a case, click on the name. 


Rasho v. Baldwin: Mental Health Care

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) punishes prisoners with mental illness, rather than properly treating them, and the treatment that is available is grossly inadequate. In May 2016, we entered into a settlement agreement with IDOC to completely revamp the way people with serious mental illnesses are treated in Illinois prisons. 

Lippert v. Baldwin: Medical Care

Health care in Illinois prisons is so inadequate that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. We are suing the Illinois Department of Corrections to fix the medical and dental care provided to Illinois prisoners. 

Holmes v. Baldwin: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Prisoners

Uptown People's Law Center is suing the Illinois Department of Corrections for failing to provide Deaf and hard of hearing prisoners with interpreters, hearing aids, or other assistive devices, thus depriving them of meaningful access to medical appointments, religious services, disciplinary hearings, and many other vital interactions with staff. 

Davis v. Baldwin: Solitary Confinement

Illinois prisoners are confined, often for 24 hours a day, to small, airless cells with no natural light, reduced food, and minimal yard time. Many are held in this extreme isolation for years. We are suing the Illinois Department of Corrections to end this cruel and unusual punishment. 

Morales v. Monreal: Parole Revocation

In October 2016, we settled a case that now requires Illinois to provide attorneys and adequate hearings to eligible parolees accused of violating parole. We are now monitoring the implementation of the settlement agreement. 

Ross v. Gossett: Excessive Force

Uptown People's Law Center is suing the Illinois Department of Corrections on behalf of hundreds of prisoners who experienced excessive force, and physical and sexual assault at the hands of an abusive team of correctional officers called the "Orange Crush tactical team."

MH v. Finley: Juvenile Parole

In January 2015, we settled a case that now requires Illinois to provide attorneys (at the state's expense) to juveniles who are accused of violating their parole. 


Closed Cases:

Westerfer v. Snyder: Closing Tamms Supermax Prison:

Tamms Supermax Prison housed hundreds of prisoners in round-the-clock solitary confinement. UPLC sued, stating that prisoners were sent to Tamms as retaliation for speaking out against the Illinois Department of Corrections. In 2010, the District Court ruled that every prisoner who had been sent to Tamms had been denied a hearing which complied with the minimum requirements of due process. UPLC then led the fight which, three years later, permanently closed the prison. 


Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill that would force prisons and jails in Illinois to provide information about how people in their custody die. The Illinois Department of Corrections often doesn’t provide basic information to families or the public and keeps shoddy and incomplete records, according to documents turned over to WBEZ by prison administrators.

Lawyers for a transgender woman held at the Pontiac men's prison have filed a lawsuit asking that she be moved to a women's facility, and an end to alleged sexual assault and harassment she has experienced for a decade.

A transgender woman incarcerated at the Pontiac Correctional Center in central Illinois has filed a federal lawsuit seeking a transfer to a women’s prison. The Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center filed a federal suit Tuesday on behalf of 29-year-old Janiah Monroe, according to a statement from the UPLC.

Nicole Davis said her uncle was diagnosed with late-stage cancer after his release from prison in 2014. He was confined to his home because of an electronic monitoring device strapped to his ankle. He missed many necessary doctor appointments before he died, Davis said. She said that’s because he couldn’t get permission from his parole officer for the medical visits.

"There were a lot of times my sons tried calling me,” recalled Annette Taylor, who regularly receives calls from her two sons in prison, “but there was no money on the account.” Those were some of the “hardest calls,” she said. “I would worry something was wrong.”

LINCOLN — When the light catches the specks of glitter on her face, Deon Hampton looks the part of a stage performer, a role she hopes to play after leaving prison. Hampton, who adopted the name "Strawberry" as a child after realizing her male body did not match her female identity, was transferred to the women's facility in Lincoln in December after a federal judge ruled the Department of Corrections failed to protect Hampton when she lived in male prisons.

The family of Chicago resident Charles Edward Jones who passed away in custody in 2015 is set to receive $1 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. The funds are to be paid by the city’s taxpayers.

Inadequate treatment of mentally ill prisoners is a problem across the U.S. When psychiatric institutions began closing down in the 1950s, they weren't replaced with mental health services in the community. So, many people with mental illness have scrapes with the law, and end up in prisons that are ill-equipped to treat them.

Our executive director Alan Mills makes a request of Illinois' new governor.

Just before Christmas, the 27-year-old transgender inmate was granted a rare transfer to a women’s prison in alignment with her gender identity. The move came amid her yearlong court battle chronicling allegations of abuse and sexual assault by both inmates and corrections staff at four men’s facilities across Illinois.

Ashoor Rasho has spent more than half of his life alone in a prison cell—22 to 24 hours a day. The cell was so narrow he could reach his arms out and touch both walls at once.

"I was in Tamms, Pontiac, Menard, Dixon, Shawnee." Gay said, "Pretty much five prisons transferred back and forth to one solitary cell to the next."

Victim's advocate Dawn Valenti believes a long sentence is just. Alan Mills of the Uptown People's Law Center calls the sentence inhumane.

“We hope this is the beginning of the end of prisoners’ needless suffering and even death. It is a long road, and we are committed to ensuring the necessary changes are made,” declared Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center.

A federal court has ordered the State of Illinois to address its “failure to . . . meet the constitutional requirements with respect to the mental health needs of” its approximately 12,000 prisoners with mental illness. This case reached a settlement agreement in 2016, but the Illinois Department of Corrections failed to live up to the agreement, and constitutional violations continued.

Amid claims of preventable deaths and substandard medical care, state officials have agreed to a sweeping overhaul of the health care system at prisons across Illinois, according to a proposed federal consent decree filed in Chicago on Thursday.

The Illinois Department of Corrections has agreed to a plan that would allow a federal judge to oversee health care in the state’s prisons. The agreement comes eight years after a lawsuit was filed alleging the treatment in Illinois’ prisons is so poor that it violates the constitution.

With his mental state deteriorating as he sat in the crushing isolation of solitary confinement, a desperate inmate named Anthony Gay saw a temporary way out.

Sometimes it came in the form of a contraband razor blade. Occasionally it was a staple from a legal document or a small shard of something he had broken.

The Illinois Department of Corrections moved a transgender woman from a men’s prison into a women’s prison. The move happened over a year after the inmate filed a lawsuit against the agency claiming she was a target for repeated sexual assaults, taunting, and beatings.

A transgender woman who described feeling like a “sex slave” while incarcerated in several men’s prisons across Illinois has been transferred to a women’s prison after a yearlong court fight.

After a year-long battle, a transgender woman held at an all-male prison was moved to an all women prison within the past week.

A transgender woman serving a 10-year sentence for burglary has been moved from an all-male prison to a women's correctional center.

PEORIA — A federal judge issued a final order Thursday directing the state Department of Corrections to remedy deficiencies in care to more than 12,000 mentally ill inmates.

When Sheila Fane got the call that her 26-year-old nephew, who she’d raised as a son, had died while incarcerated at an Illinois prison, she said, “You have to be f-ing kidding me.” It was the second time she’d gotten a call like this.

"A new report by a court-appointed psychiatrist says that the Illinois Department of Corrections continues to flounder with prisoner mental health. Dr. Pablo Stewart was appointed after a lawsuit settlement in 2016 regarding the lack of adequate mental health care in state prisons. And he says he’s convinced the staff are abusing mentally ill inmates at one correctional center, Pontiac."

In September 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced it would put a halt to book donation programs, mail-order books, and publications for incarcerated people housed in state prisons. Although the restrictive policy has since been reversed, there are still concerns among those who run the programs and people behind bars.

The homeless residents of the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts are vowing not to quit after a Cook County judge delayed ruling on whether to dismiss their discrimination lawsuit against the city of Chicago.

Lawsuits that challenge mental healthcare and medical care for incarcerated people advance in Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Corrections continues to flounder in its efforts to care for inmates with mental illness, according to a new report authored by Dr. Pablo Stewart, a psychiatrist and court-appointed monitor on a 2016 settlement agreement on a class-action lawsuit.

Medical care in Illinois prisons remains “extremely poor” and conditions leading to preventable deaths have worsened since a court-appointed team of experts first assessed the state’s prison health program.

Few days pass without letters being delivered to U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mihm in Peoria from one or more of the 1,105 inmates held in segregation. Most of the mail deals with Mihm’s 2016 order directing the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to complete a major overhaul of mental health care for more than 12,000 inmates on the agency’s mental health caseload.

One third of the prisoner deaths in Illinois reviewed by an independent expert were preventable. That’s according to a new report that rips health care in Illinois prisons as extremely poor, with medical professionals committing egregious errors and little accountability or oversight. The findings by the independent expert echo the horror stories inmates have been telling for years.

In a ruling that lawyers called "historic," a federal judge ordered that Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) review the case of Strawberry Hampton, a 27-year-old transgender woman who is being-held in a male-only detention facility downstate.

Illinois has just two weeks to present a plan to train its prison staff on transgender issues and rethink the placement of a trans inmate at the center of a highly-publicized abuse allegation.

Most allegations are never proven, but accusations of sex between inmates and staff keep coming at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, the state’s largest women’s prison.

Censorship Isolates LGBTQ Prisoners, Lawsuit Says
Censorship Isolates LGBTQ Prisoners, Lawsuit Says

On Oct. 18, Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center sued the Illinois Department of Corrections director on behalf of Chicago’s Black and Pink chapter for censoring the organization’s mail sent inside state prisons. According to the lawsuit, 11 prisons censored and refused mail from Black and Pink Chicago on over 200 occasions since 2016. The DOC’s censorship of Black and Pink material is part of a wider pattern of discrimination against LGBTQ people, the attorneys said.

In an order entered Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Rosenstengel said the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Transgender Care Review Committee must consider all evidence for and against transferring 27-year-old Strawberry Hampton to a women’s facility. The department has previously rejected her request to move.

Knowing there were other transgender inmates in prisons in Illinois and across the country made Leila Lee feel as though she wasn’t alone. She said it also made her want to help people like herself when she was released from prison.

In a permanent injunction issued Tuesday, a federal judge found that Illinois prison inmates face an ongoing, serious risk of harm because of inadequate mental health care.

In 2016, the Illinois Department of Corrections reached a settlement agreeing to properly care for the needs of mentally ill inmates. The lawsuit was filed a decade ago on behalf of inmates claiming the lack of care in prisons qualified as cruel and unusual punishment. On Wednesday, a federal judge found the corrections department is still failing to meet those needs.

Several Illinois prisons banned or censored publications, greeting cards and other written materials published by a group advocating for LGBTQ prisoners, it said in a free speech lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago Thursday.

Attorneys with the Uptown People’s Law Center filed the suit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink – a nonprofit that offers prisoners news updates on LGBTQ issues through a monthly newsletter and other publications.

Today, attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide LGBTQ people in prison with allies on the outside. For over two years, Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) has censored communication between this organization and LGBTQ prisoners in Illinois.

The Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center is filing a lawsuit today that alleges Illinois prisons are censoring correspondence and publications that have been mailed to prisoners by Black and Pink, a prisoners’ rights organization focused on supporting incarcerated LGBTQ and HIV-positive people.

Officials at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln have ignored sexual misconduct involving guards and other employees, according to three lawsuits filed since last November.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) was sued by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author for allegedly censoring her nonfiction book, “Blood In The Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.” Heather Thompson ordered her book from Amazon and had it sent to three inmates. One inmate received the book while the other two inmates received censorship notices without any explanation.

Two Illinois prisons have censored Blood in the Water, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by historian Heather Ann Thompson about the 1971 Attica prison uprising. Today, the Chicago-based Uptown People’s Law Center where I work is filing a lawsuit to challenge this unconstitutional and unethical censorship.

Thirteen prisoners were sitting in a stuffy classroom at Illinois’ Stateville Correctional Center one morning last April when a group of prison administrators invited themselves in─and closed the doors behind them.

Uptown People's Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Corrections for shutting down a prison debate team. This spring, WGN Investigates profiled inmates who participated a prison debate team at the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet.

  • Kenneth & Harle Montgomery Foundation